It’s no secret that here at Green Inc we’re not too keen on ‘The Sixties’, least of all the critical standpoint that continues to choke pop culture at birth with its overbearing, holier than thou reverence for The Beatles, Dylan, Revolver, Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper, Blonde On Blonde, Astral Weeks, Highway 61, The Band and all that; a very white, male, straight and middle class view of rock history, where not liking the sacred canon is seen as evidence of not being clever enough to ‘get it’, and a 1967 Beach Boys album that doesn’t actually exist is considered more of a classic than anything you’ve bought and loved this year or even this century.
Born in the last week of the fifties, I had just turned eleven when I began listening to pop music. Before that, during a barely remembered boyhood frozen in time by my father’s blurry, black and white photos, it simply didn’t figure. Of course, it didn’t take long for me to discover that music had a past, but from the start that past fell into two distinct parts; the time before I started listening and the time ever since. In my case the dividing line was January 1971 which is why 1970 is included here, a year I’ve always considered as being a part of ‘The Sixties’ as opposed to my seventies.
Accordingly, everything I know about ‘The Sixties’ (or the fifties for that matter) has come from retrospective listening and reading rather than any kind of contemporary involvement. Indeed, while the odd record in my old man’s small, eclectic collection and the songs groups like The Clash and The Cramps taught us provided a glimpse of the past, given how in the late seventies/early eighties history was being obscured and rewritten by the newness and weight of the punk and post punk present, it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I began to investigate the alchemy and mysterial folklore of ‘The Sixties’ with any interest.
Obviously a lot of music has passed under the bridge since then, but it was really only when the digital tidal wave made over fifty years of music culture freely available that I got to hear ‘The Sixties’ pantheon pretty much in its entirety and realised that most of it wasn’t worth the disk space. So you won’t find too much of that stuff here, the usual, done to death touchstones merely noticeable by their absence. Then again, ‘The Sixties’ always did have a lot more to offer than just ‘A Day In The Life’, ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ or ‘Good Vibrations’.
01. THE PHANTOM ‘Love Me’ (Single A Side March 1960)
In March 1960 I was a three month old bundle of sick and shit and not some frustrated, suburban, American teen. Nonetheless, there’s still no better place to start than ‘Love Me’, The Phantom’s primitive paean to the very essence of life.
02. ELVIS PRESLEY ‘A Mess Of Blues’ (Single A Side July 1960)
Most folks will agree that Elvis in the early sixties was nothing to write home about, ‘A Mess Of Blues’ (recorded during his first post army studio session) one of his rare triumphs.
03. CLANCY ECCLES ‘Freedom’ (Single A Side 1961)
The spontaneous, homegrown nature of Jamaica’s recording industry has always made it tricky to trace reggaes formative records with any degree of certainty. However, as one of Sir Coxsone Dodd’s first Studio One productions, the addictive bounce of ‘Freedom’, with Clancy Eccles R&B and calypso roots still very much in evidence, certainly sounds pioneering.
04. DEL SHANNON ‘His Latest Flame’ (Runaway With Del Shannon LP June 1961)
Nothing conjures up the not quite right, teen idol sound of the early sixties more than the weird, woozy Wurlitzer on Del Shannon’s original version of ‘His Latest Flame’. In the 21st century this may as well be music from Mars!
05. THE GEE CEES ‘Buzz Saw Twist’ (Single A Side October 1961)
The first couple of years of the post rock’n’roll era were packed with guitar instrumentals by Dick Dale, Link Wray, Duane Eddy and The Ventures and records like the lesser known Gee Cee’s wonderfully trashy ‘Buzz Saw Twist’.
06. ARTHUR ALEXANDER ‘You Better Move On’ (Single A Side February 1962)
Whether it was pop, R&B, country or showbiz schlock, sixties tunes were mostly about unrequited love and broken hearts. Teen appeal was everything as talent took a backseat, but ‘You Better Move On’ was always pure class.
07. THE LAFAYETTES ‘Life’s Too Short’ (Single A Side June 1962)
Constructed on a sparse rhythm of rimshots, ‘Life’s Too Short’ builds to become an unintentionally bizarre study in restraint and suppressed tension that sounds fairly unorthodox today so in 1962 must have been mind blowing.
08. THE CRYSTALS ‘He’s A Rebel’ (Single A Side November 1962)
In 1975, pub jukeboxes were a source of fascination to my gang of fifteen year old lads busy discovering the joy of serious drinking in out of the way alehouses. No matter what hostelry we frequented, ‘He’s A Rebel’ was sure to be amongst the vinyl treasures (and their B Sides) hidden within. The quintessential anthem for a bunch of middle class, wannabe bad boys, it was the perfect soundtrack for a night on the piss.
09. THE VIKINGS ‘Six And Seven Books Of Moses’ (Single A Side 1963)
Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert and The Maytals should have been contenders to rival Marley and The Wailers and probably would have been if they hadn’t suffered more than their fair share of dodgy deals in the wild west of the Kingston recording industry. Originally credited to The Vikings by their Jamaican label to avoid royalty payments, the raw and lively ‘Six And Seven Books Of Moses’ was only their second single, Toots strict Baptist upbringing providing the lyrical foundation.
10. OTIS REDDING ‘Pain In My Heart’ (Single A Side November 1963)
I knew little of Otis until I got hold of The Otis Redding Story in 1987. Opening up a previously unknown world of deep, Stax soul, I kept returning to ‘Pain In My Heart’. Lifted direct from Irma Thomas’s perfunctory ‘Ruler Of My Heart’ but sculpted anew by Otis, Booker T and The MG’s, in my mid twenties it was the first time I’d heard such a harrowing portrait of love in anguish. With a voice sounding as old as the hills and as wise as time, when he recorded it Otis had just turned twenty two!
11. GARNET MIMMS & THE ENCHANTERS ‘A Quiet Place’ (Single B Side April 1964)
In the years before soul was recognised in the wider cultural context as a genre in its own right, the gospel influence on records like ‘A Quiet Place’ produced some of the most dynamic and deeply affecting recordings of their (or any) time.
12. THE IMPRESSIONS ‘Keep On Pushing’ (Single A Side May 1964)
When young Civil Rights activists boarded the Freedom Rider buses in the early sixties to travel south and fight for the right to eat a burger, use the restroom or sit on a bus seat of their choice, they often had ‘Keep On Pushing’ on their minds. One of the first songs to reflect an increasing social and political awareness without actually saying so, it continues to reverberate across the decades.
13. THE BEACH BOYS ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ (Shut Down Volume Two LP April 1964)
Given my loathing of most sixties icons, by rights barmy Brian, pervy Mike and the lads shouldn’t feature, but with my prejudice tempered by Paul Dano’s performance in the 2016 biopic Love And Mercy, only a soulless fool would deny ‘Don’t Worry Baby’s heartfelt brilliance.
14. TWINKLE ‘Terry’ (Single A Side October 1964)
Fourteen year old Lynn Ripley wrote ‘Terry’ during a particularly tedious French lesson at her fee paying Kensington school about the young motorcyclists she’d see on the Dorking bypass. A young, rich girl’s fantasy about a tough, biker boyfriend who zooms off to a lonely end of mangled chrome and blood splattered tarmac, it’s really nothing more than three minutes of pop fluff, yet somehow it match’s my aural vision of the times.
15. THE FLAMES ‘Broadway Jungle’ (Single A Side November 1964)
Touting their talent around Kingston’s producer elite The Maytals fell in with Prince Buster for the frenzied rant of ‘Broadway Jungle’, although the partnership didn’t last long. Once again they were billed under a pseudonym, so once again they moved on.
16. THE MARVELETTES ‘I’ll Keep Holding On’ (Single A Side May 1965)
By 1965, in a world staggering under the first blow of benediction by black music, The Marvelettes were having to face up to the fact that they had slipped to the bottom of Berry Gordy’s Motown pecking order. How ironic then then that ‘I’ll Keep Holding On’ should prove to be a sleek, unsmiling, stomper of a record, sonically on the cutting edge of the label at its absolute peak.
17. THE SHANGRI-LAS ‘Out In The Streets’ (Single A Side May 1965)
The Shangri-Las were barely sixteen when they started out, yet despite their youth they exuded a street tough strength and independence that gained them instant attention in a decade of sugary sweet girl singers. Perfecting the art of pop melodrama on a series of brilliant singles addressing everything from the reformation of a bad boy beau to the rejection of parental values, they were nobodies puppets. Even now that’s rare. Back then it was revolutionary.
18. ROY C ‘Shotgun Wedding’ (Single A Side July 1965)
Part novelty, part social commentary, despite hitting the heights of the UK top ten in 1965 and 1972 (when I remember it from), buried under the dust of a million best sellers, the glorious, skeletal soul of ‘Shotgun Wedding’ remains more or less forgotten.
19. THE ROLLING STONES ‘Get Off Of My Cloud’ (Single A Side September 1965)
Knocked out as a quickfire follow up to ‘Satisfaction’, ‘Get Off Of My Cloud’ was even better, a stonking rebel yell against America, fame, the establishment and all manner of mind boggling bullshit.
20. LEE DORSEY ‘Work Work Work’ (Single A Side October 1965)
In the late seventies Paul Simonon of The Clash used to carry a box of mixtapes around with him. Occasionally it was possible to catch a glimpse of the hand written titles; Motown, Rockabilly, Dub, Screaming Jay Hawkins and most intriguing of all Lee Dorsey. Considering how the word of The Clash came somewhere close to God’s, I investigated further and stumbled across ‘Work Work Work’, a song so true that for a while it became something of a personal anthem.
21. FRANK WILSON ‘Do I Love You’ (Single A Side November 1965)
Resurrected and bootlegged to death for Northern soul dancefloors in the late seventies, the fact that the infectious drive of Frank Wilson’s rejected single is still one of the greatest recordings to come out of Motown proves that the seemingly superhuman Berry Gordy made mistakes just like the rest of us.
22. BOBBY FULLER FOUR ‘I Fought The Law’ (Single A Side November 1965)
Number one in the songs The Clash covered, the Bobby Fuller Four’s version of ‘I Fought the Law’ has a lot going for it; a catchy riff, a wistful vocal, lost love, rebel cache, fatalism and one of the most indelible choruses in the history of choruses. And just for good measure, for those who know the story of Fullers shocking and mysterious death just months after its release, there’s an undercurrent of tragedy to it too.
23. THE GROUPIES ‘Primitive’ (Single A Side January 1966)
When ‘Primitive’ finally appeared in 1980 on Pebbles Volume Ten it proved something of a revelation, The Groupies cavernous drums and snotty vocals pushing it beyond the barbaric yelp of the furious teenager to another place entirely.
24. NANCY SINATRA ‘These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ (Single A Side January 1966)
In 1966 everything about ‘These Boots are Made For Walkin’ was a sensation, from the distinctive, walking bass line to the tough, kiss my arse delivery to the iconic sleeve. Determined to show a sexist world that a woman could have serious swagger, Nancy Sinatra proved that a new generation of independent women were ready and willing to follow in her footsteps.
25. THE WALKER BROTHERS ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’ (Single A Side February 1966)
Decades before he was slapping sides of meat, bashing bricks onto metal sheets and pushing the envelope of what was possible and/or listenable, Scott Walker was the definitive pop crooner pin up and this cinematic, downer beauty was his band of brothers greatest song.
26. THE LOVIN’ SPOONFUL ‘Daydream’ (Single A Side February 1966)
A whistling, happy go lucky kind of song ‘Daydream’ that still grins with a carefree (possibly chemically induced?) pleasure.
27. JOE TEX ‘The Love You Save’ (Single A Side March 1966)
Dismissed as a writer of trite novelty tunes Joe Tex has been pretty much written out of soul history, his records long deleted and hard to find. And yet ‘The Love You Save’ is unlike anything else from the mid sixties. With a subtlety and vulnerability you don’t always get from the recognised masters, he delivers a ragged, rasping sermon on the trials and tribulations of being a black man in the deep south and the pain of love.
28. LOVE ‘My Little Red Book’ (Single A Side March 1966)
Dig! Dig! Dig!, the first group I really got involved with used to play ‘Little Red Book’ live. I loved it but at the time (this would have been around 1980) I knew literally nothing of Love or that it had been written by easy listening favourites Bacharach and David. In fact, it wasn’t until a decade later that I discovered the facts, got hold of the Love recording and fell for it again.
29. LIZ BRADY ‘Palladium (The Hip)’ (Single A Side April 1966)
My father always reserved a special place in his heart for female French singers, perhaps because they represented an exotic, secret, fantasy life a million miles away from the serial monotony of his own. ‘Palladium (The Hip)’ was just another of the strange little 45’s I used to find in his singles rack.
30. LEE HAZLEWOOD & SUZI JANE HOKUM ‘Sand’ (Single A Side May 1966)
Blessed (or cursed!) with his own singular vision of pop, a handlebar moustache and a booming baritone, Lee Hazlewood must have cut a lonely figure in the corridors of showbiz he haunted. Overshadowed by his collaborations with Nancy Sinatra, his own records sold in their hundreds rather than their millions, but as a curious oddball floating around the periphery of pop, forty years later he suddenly found himself bestowed with a cult status previously only reserved for wayward geniuses like Syd Barrett and Scott Walker.
31. THE DOORS ‘The Crystal Ship’ (The Doors LP January 1967)
My favourite Doors song changes all the time, yet they all drew from the same art of darkness. Representing the moment when the lurking malevolence began to encroach on the good vibrations, in contrast to the breezy, sunshine pop of the Beach Boys or the Mamas and Papas, Jim Morrison trafficked in the poets, philosophers and artists who saw terror as the other side of ecstasy and knew death was just as much a reality as California dreamin'.
32. THE VELVET UNDERGROUND ‘Venus In Furs’ (The Velvet Underground & Nico LP March 1967)
Mining the shadowy, seedier side of New York, Lou Reed was exploring the same bohemian undercurrent as Jim Morrison, one completely at odds with a counter culture readying itself for the summer of love. And just like The Doors, my favourite Velvets song changes all the time too. For years it was ‘White Light/White Heat’, last month it was ‘Rock And Roll’, last week it was ‘What goes On’. Right now it’s ‘Venus In Furs’.
33. THE VALENTINES ‘Blam Blam Fever’ (Single A Side 1967)
From 1965 until 1967 and the year of rocksteady, the kids of an increasingly lawless and violent Kingston were dancing to a different kind of beat. Characterised by a more dynamic bassline and lyrics aimed directly at ghetto youth, rudeboy was as good a description as any, and one producers were only to happy to exploit on records like The Valentines genre defining ‘Blam Blam Fever’.
34. JACKIE WILSON ‘Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher And Higher’ (Single A Side July 1967)
Theres not too much to say about this stone cold classic, a record that in just under three minutes manages to blur the line between romantic and spiritual bliss, crash through my armour plate of cynicism and stir me into hollering it from the highest mountain to my beloved.
35. SIMON DUPREE & THE BIG SOUND ‘Kites’ (Single A Side October 1967)
In an era of cash in’s, a handful of British ‘flower power’ singles transcended their original intention to become genuine cultural phenomenons, the greatest example being sometime blue-eyed soulsters Simon Dupree & The Big Sounds kitsch but spellbinding ‘Kites’ replete with gongs, Mellotron, swirling wind effects, an incomprehensible spoken part and the kitchen sink. Sixties pop at its brilliant best!
36. PINK FLOYD ‘Apples And Oranges’ (Single A Side November 1967)
The unsettling sound of a mind starting to shred, Syd’s brilliantly eccentric yet charming vignette of English suburbia on a freaky, sunny afternoon was the final instalment in the Barrett led Floyds trio of 1967 singles.
37. BRIGITTE BARDOT ‘Harley Davidson’ (Single A Side December 1967)
Serge Gainsbourg’s talent for making seemingly meaningless pap appealling and packed with sexual innuendo was unprecedented. On this occasion the presence of the Goddess Bardot defiantly singing ‘I don’t need anyone, when I’m on my Harley Davidson’ in French certainly helped. Then again, I’ve always had a thing for spaced out, sitar tinged, dance grooves.
38. THE DELLS ‘There Is’ (Single A Side December 1967)
As interesting as it is, the fact that The Dells were a hangover from the pre rock’n’roll days of doo wop is irrelevent. All that matters is the uplifting, great-to-be-alive rush of ‘There Is’. Nothing else.
39. THE MAYTALS ‘54-46 That’s My Number’ (Single A Side March 1968)
40. DESMOND DEKKER & THE ACES ‘Israelites’ (Single A Side March 1968)
41. LEE PERRY ‘People Funny Boy’ (Single A Side June 1968)
Back when reggae was more of a Saturday night, skinhead knees up than a perpetual protest movement, records like ‘54-46 That’s My Number’, ‘Israelites’ and ‘People Funny Boy’ were pushing it on while further whetting the worlds appetite for authentic sounds from faraway places.
42. THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE ‘Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)’ (Electric Ladyland LP October 1968)
If The Maytals, Desmond Dekker and Lee Perry were raising reggae to new heights, Jimi Hendrix was repainting the sonic landscape for a future without him in it. I still remember the thrill of hearing the vast scope and underlying menace of Electric Ladyland and ‘Voodoo Chile’ for the first time, the forbidden fruit of an era I didn’t much care for.
43. BOBBIE GENTRY ‘Sweet Peony’ (Local Gentry LP October 1968)
Blamed by Deliverance author James Dickey for ‘the debasement of all folk styles that have ever existed in the world’, in our house Bobbie Gentry was never less than a mercurial singer and wordsmith who wrote fabulously funky swamp songs like ‘Sweet Peony’ while trying to balance the requirements of a weekly, primetime, TV show.
44. MARIANNE FAITHFULL ‘Sister Morphine’ (Single B Side February 1969)
Marianne Faithfull’s romance with Mick Jagger ended badly, the bitterness only increasing when he spitefully denied her a song writing credit on ‘Sister Morphine’. Marking a huge departure from her previous little girl lost records, in a voice that was already beginning to show the ravages of drug abuse, Marianne delivered her gravelly take on a subject horrifyingly close to her heart.
45. THE ISLEY BROTHERS ‘It’s Your Thing’ (Single A Side March 1969)
46. SLY & THE FAMILY STONE ‘I Want To Take You Higher’ (Stand! LP May 1969)
47. THE TEMPTATIONS ‘I Can’t Get Next To You’ (Single A Side July 1969)
No-one epitomised the uncertain period between the late sixties and the early seventies more than Sly Stone. While others paid lip service to such high falutin’ ideals as racial integration, sexual equality and fighting the man, he put all the rhetoric into practise. To realise his new world Sly recruited a clan of black and white brothers and sisters to create a radical, revolutionary brew of proto funk and gospel positivity. Whereas black nationalists were preaching separatism, the diverse racial composition of The Family Stone made crossover seem like a political utopia. The repercussions spread far and wide, not least by inspiring long established acts like The Isley’s and The Temptations to turn away from the lightweight hits they had built their careers on to combine social commentary with Sly’s new, psychedelic groove.
48. BRIGITTE FONTAINE ‘Le Goudron’ (Single A Side July 1969)
Once heard never forgotten revolutionary anthem by curious French chanteuse Brigitte Fontaine with avant-garde jazz greats The Art Ensemble of Chicago.
49. NICO ‘Frozen Warnings’ (The Marble Index LP July 1969)
Bleak, deeply unsettling yet with a remarkable, annihilating beauty, The Marble Index maybe a work of tremendous power but it’s definitely not entertainment in the truest sense of the word. And its definitely not something to play in the car, not unless you intend to drive over a cliff with your murdered wife in the boot and your terrified kids in the back seat.
50. THE STOOGES ‘No Fun’ (The Stooges LP August 1969)
Dumb arses are incapable of playing rock’n’roll as d.u.m.b. as The Stooges. For that you need a supersize wit and intelligence and in 1969 you needed it more than ever. Bearing little resemblance to The Pistols B Side, this is ‘No Fun’ as Iggy intended; the ultimate teen anthem from the ultimate front man and proto punk anti-hero with the scars to prove it.
51. LED ZEPPELIN ‘Ramble On’ (Led Zeppelin II LP October 1969)
If Led Zeppelin I was a product of the imperialist British blues boom and its shameless, stolen song writing credits, just ten months later Led Zeppelin II set the template for seventies rock and created the riffs by which all others would fail. When I discovered it in the mid seventies I was blown away by how compelling and sonically different the likes of ‘Whole Lotta Love’, ‘What Is And What Should Never Be’ and ‘Ramble On’ really were, something that’s often forgotten amongst Zeppelin’s lurid tales of libertarian excess.
52. THE CAN ‘Soul Desert’ (Single A Side November 1969)
In the post punk autumn of 1978, Can were being referenced so often that I got hold of Cannibalism, a compilation of their greatest moments starting with the howl of 1969 debut ‘Soul Desert’. Despite being pre-punk German, squat hippies with horrendous facial hair, within their improvised, intellectually driven motorik, I was surprised to find an avant-garde funk pulse that would have a massive influence on the arty side of British post punk.
53. SCOTT WALKER ‘The Seventh Seal’ (Scott 4 LP November 1969)
Discovered via an NME review for Julian Cope’s 1981 Walker compilation Fire Escape In The Sky, an album instantly deleted upon release, thankfully unwanted copies of Scott 4 littered the second hand shops. Grandiose, European, mysterious and achingly beautiful, it was all of those things and more, none more so than on the quite remarkable ‘The Seventh Seal’.
54. SYD BARRETT ‘Octopus’ (Single A Side November 1969)
When Syd Barrett’s brilliantly bright star dimmed within the dark globe of his battered brain, he attempted to soundtrack his own collapse on two solo records. As both artistic and human documents, you only have to hear The Madcap Laughs and Barrett once to know they offer uncomfortable creative evidence of an altered state pushed beyond the point of no return.
55. TYRANNOSAURUS REX ‘Lofty Skies’ (A Beard Of Stars LP March 1970)
T. Rex and 1971 signaled the start of the seventies for most of my Generation X, yet before he plugged in and went back to rock’n’roll basics for ‘Hot Love’ and ‘Get It On’, Marc Bolan created his own Narnia-ish fantasy world and stuck with it over four albums, songs like ‘Lofty Skies’ just as beguiling now as his later teen anthems.
56. THE KINKS ‘Lola’ (Single A Side June 1970)
Referencing drag queens, transgender encounters and the questioning of one's own sexuality, in the summer of 1970 ‘Lola’ was as catchy as hell and a step ahead of the pop curve, Ray Davies somehow making it work by by accentuating the naturalness of a love that had only recently been decriminalised in the UK and would remain illegal for decades in much of the U.S.
57. BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS ‘Duppy Conqueror’ (Single A Side September 1970)
Bob Marley was the duppy conqueror, more powerful than his supernatural adversaries and dismissive of his human enemies as evil spirits. For most of us his breakthrough didn’t come until Catch A Fire in 1973, but he had already recorded the formative versions of many of the songs that ultimately would forge his legend.
58. KING FLOYD ‘Groove Me’ (Single B Side September 1970)
King Floyd was killing time in the New Orleans postal service when club and radio DJ’s flipped over to the B Side of his latest single so starting the process by which the laid back Southern funk of ‘Groove Me’ would be transformed into an enormous, stateside smash.
59. HUGH ROY ‘Rule The Nation’ (Single A Side September 1970)
Though not the first DJ to make records, with the skill and fire to hold a crowd using his voice alone, U Roy wasn’t referred to as ‘The Originator’ for nothing.
60. JAMES BROWN ‘Get Up I Feel Like Being A Sex Machine’ (Single A Side September 1970)
Sick of James Brown’s complete works being reduced to this timeless firebomb, funk devotees often dismiss ‘Sex Machine’ out of hand. Sure, it can feel like it’s never off the radio, is a permanent feature in countless films and has become universal shorthand for ‘funk’, but in my mind it continues to mark the moment when seventies culture cut itself loose from the ghost of the sixties.